Naturally, there aren’t a lot of Hollywood movies about DUI.
It’s a pretty depressing topic and it isn’t very controversial. Almost everyone is against driving drunk. And if there are any politicians who are in favor of raising the legal limit, they understandably don’t have the guts to propose it.
The education and publicity campaign against DUI has been a complete success.
Ask a school boy who he’d rather be in a car with to get somewhere safely and quickly – his sober 85 year old grandfather Donald or Jeff Gordon after two pints of Long Trail. Chances are the boy will choose Grandpa Donald. And the law agrees.
Real life isn’t that simple, however. If asked the same question, an adult might choose to ride with tipsy Jeff Gordon because he’s a flat-out better driver.
Drinking does lead to bad driving decisions. It makes you want to go really fast and blast the stereo so you can sing along to the Killers song that just came on.
But a few beers aren’t necessarily going to turn a responsible, focused driver like Jeff Gordon into a killing machine and sobriety doesn’t guarantee that myopic, inattentive Grandpa Don is going to get you home safely.
You simply can’t make a mainstream movie that defends DUI. Too many people have been hurt by drunk drivers. So veteran director Robert Zemeckis (“Forest Gump”) cleverly shifts the focus to the skies and defends a man who flies drunk.
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is Jeff Gordon in this scenario. The film begins with Whip flying a commercial jet after a few beers. And a few shots of vodka. And a few lines of cocaine.
His plane crashes, killing six people. But not because of Whip. The flight was doomed because of manufacturer negligence that led the plane to break apart in mid air. In fact, it was Whip’s quick decision making that allowed him to land the broken jet in an empty field, saving most of the passengers.
To the 100 survivors, Whip is a hero. To the law, he is a murderous felon.
To everyone in his life, Whip is a frustratingly undependable alcoholic.
If there was ever a time to sober up, this is it. But even as he faces a federal hearing that will determine whether or not he will go to prison, Whip continues to drink every day and get wasted every night. It’s easy to understand why his wife left him and his son hates him.
“Flight” is a thought-provoking film. It makes a surprising argument.
By the end of the movie, you are convinced that a drunk really is capable of landing an airplane under extreme circumstances. But his ability to be a good husband, a good father, and a good man is a severely impaired.
“Flight” isn’t your average Hollywood message movie. That’s why it is worth seeing.